Holt’s entrance into the race pits one of Congress’ biggest political nerds against likely opponent Cory Booker, who is one of the Democratic Party’s most prominent rising stars.
Holt is only the second research physicist to be elected to Congress, and he is also one of two members of Congress to appear on “Jeopardy.”
Here’s a quick primer of five things you need to know about Holt’s background as a scientist and general nerd, and how it has been a facet of his time in Congress:
1. His campaign made a creative bumper sticker reflecting his scientific background:
2. Holt laments the lack of scientists and physicists in Congress.
He told the New York Times in 2008 that 420 of the 435 members of the House of Representatives “don’t know much about science and choose not to.”
He detailed a particularly harrowing sequence in 2001, when anthrax spores were discovered on the Hill:
[C]olleagues came to him and said, “You are a scientist, you must know about anthrax,” a subject ordinarily missing from the physics curriculum.
“The difference,” he said, “is we would be perfectly happy to pick up a copy of The New England Journal of Medicine and read about the etiology of anthrax.”
“In fact, we basically did that,” Mr. Ehlers said.
“We know more than our colleagues,” Mr. Holt said, “but not more than they could know.”
Unfortunately, Mr. Foster said, “unless things play to their advantage in the next election, they are not interested.”
3. Holt is a five-time “Jeopardy” winner.
According to the Asbury Park Press, Holt won five games of “Jeopardy” in the late 1970s.
4. He’s so good that he beat IBM’s famous “supercomputer,” Watson.
In a 2011 exhibition game of “Jeopardy,” Holt outpaced the IBM “supercomputer,” Watson. He ended their match with $8,600 to Watson’s $6,200.
“I was proud to hold my own with Watson,” Holt said. “… It was fun to out-do Watson in the first round, but this was not just about fun and games. Science and maths education and research and development are vital to our nation so we can out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.”
Holt jumped out to a lead in the categories of “Presidential Rhyme Time” (A clue: Herbert’s military strategy; answer: What is Hoover’s Maneuvers) and “Also a Laundry Detergent” (A clue: 3-letter nickname for the Beatles; answer: What is Fab). In the category of “Phobias,” he also identified that Hippophobia is the fear of horses.
5. In February, he introduced a resolution in honour of Charles Darwin.
On the 204th anniversary of British naturalist Charles Darwin’s birth, Holt introduced a measure to make Feb. 12 “Darwin Day.”
In the resolution, he takes direct aim at some members of Congress, writing that “the advancement of science must be protected from those unconcerned with the adverse impacts of global warming and climate change.”
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